February 10, 2013

"The Lonely Pine": America's Saddest Teaching Piece

I teach out of the Nancy and Randall Faber Piano Adventures series of books and have gotten to know their pieces very well. for the most part the content is light-hearted and kid-friendly (of course it's kid friendly) and the pictures are interesting but not distracting. One of my absolute favorite pieces from these books is called "The Lonely Pine". It's  8 measures long and only takes up half a page but compared to the rest of the pieces aimed at this age level, it has the emotional weight and complexity of Crime and Punishment. Found in the pages of the Faber's Piano Adventures, Lesson Book Level 1, the piece uses an FM7 chord (the unit is based on learning the spaces of the treble clef which happen to make up all of the members of this chord) to create a melancholic backdrop for its utterly depressing lyrics:

I'm so lonely,
I'm so lonely,
Come build a nest in me.
I'm so lonely.

Faber, Nancy and Randall. Piano Adventures: Lesson Book Level 1. Dovetree Productions, Inc. Ann Arbor, MI. Illustrations by Terpstra Design, San Francisco. p20

I've thought about this piece a lot. Way more than most pieces in the book. I don't push it on kids, it's right for some of them, but a lot like to skip it. Usually the quiet, "deep" kids latch on to it though. I like the piece for the way it sounds, the major seven chord is a richer sound than we normally get this early in a method series. I also like it because it's unexpected, a sad song aimed at 7 year olds. Mostly I like the song because it recognizes that children are capable of and subject to a variety of emotions. It's a fantastic gem that proves it doesn't take a lot of notes to create a moving, meaningful work of art.

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